MESSENGER is scheduled to plunge to its doom today. Its fuel tank empty, the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury will end its 4-year mission by crashing into the planet's surface. The impact is expected to happen at 3:26:02
MESSENGER's first flyby of Mercury in January 2008 was historic. The last time a spacecraft visited—Mariner 10—was in 1975, and it only mapped half the planet. MESSENGER began its mission by sending back a complete picture of Mercury, shedding light on its geological history. Over the next four years, the mission returned much more than images. Its data on the planet's core, magnetic field, composition, and other attributes is helping scientists answer pressing questions about the evolution of the terrestrial planets and even the Solar System itself.
In this documentary from the Bulletins archives, take a step back in time to the beginning of MESSENGER's mission, and watch the science team react as the orbiter's first images of Mercury roll in.
More about the anticipated impact location here: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/gallery/sciencePhotos/image.php?gallery_id=2&image_id=1602